Capitol shut down to public, White House cancels tours

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Tourists walk in front of the U.S. Capitol dome down the steps to the Capitol Visitor Center on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

Congress will bar public access to the U.S. Capitol for the rest of the month, and the White House will temporarily cancel tours as officials try to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

Capitol tours will stop, while access to the building along with House and Senate office facilities will be limited to members, staff, press and business visitors starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger said in a statement. 

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Judd Deere told NBC News that the administration will stop tours of the president’s residence “until further notice.” 

The moves in Washington come as fears grow about the spread of the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, in the United States. More than 1,300 cases have been reported in the U.S., and at least 38 people have died from it.

Lawmakers and the White House are scrambling to agree to a relief package for workers affected by coronavirus. Republicans have criticized a proposal House Democrats hoped to vote on Thursday, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiates with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

Both chamber of Congress are scheduled to go on recess next week.

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